Youth activists and community members who organized a climate change protest Sept. 20 received a bill from the Madison Police Department totaling $4,631.66, according to The Isthmus.
The Youth Climate Action Team of Wisconsin organized the march and received the bill Nov. 8. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway waived the bill, according to Max Prestigiacomo, youth activist and organizer of the march.
The bill includes charges for the police officers present at the site where the permit granted the activists to protest. The March started at Madison Gas and Electric company, located on Railroad Street and ended at the capitol building on Main Street.
UW ranks last out of all Big Ten schools for sustainability, announces sustainability councilThe University of Wisconsin was ranked last out of all Big Ten schools in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating Read…
“We were surprised because the city of Madison supports the First Amendment right to protest and was inspired by our work,” Prestigiacomo said. “But then we were hit by the bill and as a nonprofit run by high school students we were not able to act in the way they wanted.”
According to MPD Chief Victor Wahl’s blog, permits are required by the city ordinance for any event reserving a Madison street, parking space, sidewalk or public space. Madison’s Street Use Staff Commission reviews requests for permits. The Commission works with organizers in order to establish a safe environment for all parties involved.
Wahl’s blog says the permit process includes an estimated cost of city expenses, which in most cases mainly includes the salaries of police presence required to control the event. The estimated costs are presented to the event organizers who are required to agree to pay before receiving a permit.
When organizers resist the charges as a testament to their First Amendment right to protest, the organizers are referred to the mayor’s office who will occasionally waive the costs, Wahl wrote in the blog. Costs can be renounced partially or fully.
In this case, Rhodes-Conway advised the MPD costs for the march be waived completely, and the MPD work with City Finance to rescind the bill.
Madison joins Global Climate Strike with MGE rally, march to CapitolHundreds of people gathered outside the Madison Gas and Electric facility to urge MGE to transition completely to 100% renewable Read…
Wahl wrote in support of this concept and encourages event planners and organizers to work within the system to allow safe activities. Incorporating a waiver request into the permit application will further this goal.
“I feel strongly that as chief I cannot be the one to decide who is exempted from paying for police costs associated with an event,” Wahl wrote in the blog. “Nor should leaders from other city agencies be expected to make that decision for their expenses. It is more appropriate for that determination to rest with the mayor, rather than individual city agency heads.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin represented the Youth Climate Action Team Wisconsin in their efforts to waive costs, Prestigiacomo said.
The ACLU is a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” according to its website. ACLU of Wisconsin is a community group from Dane County that supports local civil liberties issues.
Despite the difficulty following the Youth Climate Action Teams event, climate strikes will continue in Madison. Prestigiacomo said an international climate strike will take place Dec. 6 in Madison. Following this, the Youth Climate Action Team has already begun planning for a march that will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day April 22.
Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley said that city staff have been working to change the system when it comes to protests, but it takes time.
“There has been a city staff working on this for several months,” Crawley said. “It’s hard because police costs are high and must be compensated. This being said we want to protect the rights of everyone.”